Biden Has ‘Wind at His Back’ for Putin Summit, Aide Says

Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, defended the U.S. president’s decision to meet next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying it’s the best way to ascertain the Kremlin’s intentions.

Biden will meet June 16 with Putin in Geneva, following summits with Group of Seven and NATO allies beginning Thursday, where the American president plans to consult on his meeting with the Russian leader, Sullivan said.

Biden “will go into this meeting with the wind at his back,” Sullivan said Monday during a White House press briefing.

The president, however, has drawn some criticism for proposing a summit with Putin despite Moscow’s alleged interference in U.S. elections, cyberattacks on American companies and government agencies, and Russia’s hostility toward Ukraine and its treatment of Putin’s political opponents.

Sullivan said the meeting isn’t a “reward” for Putin. “We regard it as a vital part of defending America’s interests and America’s values,” he said.

Meeting with Putin, he said, is the best way for Biden to determine the Kremlin’s intentions in the world. Putin “has a highly personalized style of decision-making,” he said.

Sullivan announced that Biden had also spoken with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Monday and invited him to visit the White House this summer. Biden assured Zelenskiy during the call that in his meeting with Putin, “he will stand up firmly for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and aspirations.”

And NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed support for the summit following a meeting with Biden Monday afternoon, saying the alliance supported a “dual track approach” of defense deterrence and dialogue with Russia.

“Dialogue with Russia is not a sign of weakness,” Stoltenberg said at the White House. “We are strong, we are united, and we can talk to Russia, and we need to talk to Russia partially to strive for a better relationship. But even if you don’t believe in a better relationship with Russia, we need to manage a difficult relationship.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.